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There is a gaiety and tiptoe elevation in his personal deportment which Mr. Kean has not, but in other more essential points there is no room for competition. Of his Coriolanus and Richard we may have to speak in detail hereafter.

We shall conclude this introductory sketch with a few words on the comic actors. Emery at Covent Garden might be said to be the best provincial actor on the London boards. In his line of rustic characters he is a perfect actor. He would be a bold critic who should undertake to show that in his own walk Emery ever did anything wrong. His Hodge is an absolute reality ; and his Lockitt is as sullen, as gloomy, and impenetrable as the prison walls of which he is the keeper. His Robert Tyke : 1 is the sublime of tragedy in low life. Mr. Liston has more comic humour, more power of face, and a more genial and happy vein of folly, than any other actor we remember. His farce is not caricature : his drollery oozes out of his features, and trickles down his face, his voice is a pitch-pipe for laughter. He does some characters but indifferently, others respectably; but when he puts himself whole into a jest, it is unrivalled. Munden with all his merit, his whim, his imagination, and with his broad effects, is a caricaturist in the comparison. He distorts his features to the utmost stretch of grimace, and trolls his voice about with his tongue in the most extraordinary manner, but he does all this with an evident view to the audience; whereas Liston's style of acting is the unconscious and involuntary ; he indulges his own risibility or absurd humours to please himself, and the odd noises he makes come from him as naturally as the bleating of a sheep. Elliston is an actor of great

* In The School of Reform.

merit, and of a very agreeable class; there is a joyousness in his look, his voice, and manner; he treads the stage as if it was his “ best-found and latest, as well as earliest choice ;" writes himself comedian in any book, warrant, or acquittance ; hits the town between wind and water, between farce and tragedy ; touches the string of a mock heroic sentiment with due pathos and vivacity; and makes the best strolling gentleman, or needy poet, on the stage. His Rover is excellent ; so is his Duke in The Honeymoon; and in Matrimony he is best of all. Dowton is a genuine and excellent comedian ; and, in speaking of his Major Sturgeon, we cannot pass over, disdainful silence, Russell's Jerry Sneak," and Mrs. Harlowe's Miss Molly Jollop. Oxberry 3 is an actor of a strong rather than of a pleasant comic vein (his Maw. worm is particularly emphatical). Harley pleases others, for he seems pleased himself; and little Knight, in the simplicity and good nature of the country lad, is inimitable.

in

MINOR THEATRES-STROLLING PLAYERS.

London Magazine (No. III.), March, 1820. One reason that makes the Minor Theatres interesting is, that they are the connecting link that lets us down, by an easy transition, from the highest pomp and proudest display of the Thespian art, to its first rudiments

* Samuel Russell (1766-1845), so famous for playing this part in The Mayor of Garratt, that he was known as “Jerry Sneak Russell.” See p. 107 of this volume for IIazlitt's criticism on this play.

2 Mrs. Harlowe (born about 1770) was a mediocre actress.

3 William Oxberry (1784-1824) made some reputation as a comedian, but is best known by the books of theatrical memoirs, &c., published under his name.

" like

and helpless infancy. With conscious happy retrospect, they lead the eye back, along the vista of the imagination, to the village barn, or travelling booth, or old-fashioned town-hall, or more genteel assembly-room, in which Momus first unmasked to us his fairy revels, and introduced us, for the first time in our lives, to that strange anomaly in existence, that fanciful reality, that gay waking dream, a company of strolling players / Sit still, draw close together, hold in your breath-not a word, not a whisper—the laugh is ready to start away, greyhound on the slip,” the big tear of wonder and expectation is ready to steal down “the full eyes and fair cheeks of childhood," almost before the time. Only another moment, and amidst blazing tapers, and the dancing sounds of music, and light throbbing hearts, and eager looks, the curtain rises, and the picture of the world appears before us in all its glory and in all its freshness. Life throws its gaudy shadow across the stage ; Hope shakes his many-coloured wings, "embalmed with odours ;" Joy claps his hands, and laughs in a hundred happy faces. Oh, childish fancy, what a mighty empire is thine! what endless creations thou buildest out of nothing ! what " a wide O” indeed, thou choosest to act thy thoughts and unrivalled feats upon! Thou art better than the gilt trophy that decks the funeral pall of kings; thou art brighter than the costly mace that precedes them on their coronation day. Thy fearfullest visions are enviable happiness; thy wildest fictions are the solidest truths. Thou art the only reality. All other possessions mock our idle grasp ; but thou performest by promising; thy smile is fruition ; thy blandishments are all that we can fairly call our own ; thou art the balm

of life, the heaven of childhood, the poet's idol, and the player's pride! The world is but thy painting, and the stage is thine enchanted mirror. When it first displays its shining surface to our view, how glad, how surprised are we! We have no thought of any deception in the scene, no wish but to realise it ourselves with inconsiderate haste and fond impatience. We say to the air-drawn gorgeous phantom, “Come, let me clutch thee!" A new sense comes upon us, the scales fall off our eyes, and the scenes of life start out in endless quick succession, crowded with men and women actors, such as we see before us—comparable to “those gay creatures of the element that live in the rainbow, and play i' th' plighted clouds !". Happy are we who look on and admire ; and happy, we think, must they be who are so looked at and admired ; and sometimes we begin to feel uneasy

till we can ourselves mingle in the gay, busy, talking, fluttering, powdered, painted, perfumed, peruked, quaintly accoutred throng of coxcombs and coquettes—of tragedy heroes or heroines-in good earnest ; or turn stage-players and represent them in jest, with all the impertinent and consequential airs of the originals !

It is no insignificant epoch in one's life the first time that odd-looking thing, a play-bill, is left at our door in a little market town in the country (say Wem, in Shropshire). The manager, somewhat fatter and more erect,

as manager beseems,” than the rest of his company, with more of the man of business, and not less of the

I took it for a faery vision
Of some gay creatures of the element,
That in the colours of the rainbow live,
And play i' the plighted clouds.—Comus.
Where Hazlitt was brought up.

coxcomb, in his strut and manner, knocks at the door with the end of a walking cane (his badge of office !) and a bundle of papers under his arm; presents one of them, printed in large capitals, with a respectful bow and a familiar shrug ; hopes to give satisfaction in the town ; hints at the liberal encouragement they received at the last place they stopped at; had every possible facility afforded by the magistrates ; supped one evening with the Rev. Mr. Jenkins, a dissenting clergyman, and really a very well-informed, agreeable, sensible man, full of anecdote-no illiberal prejudices against the profession : then talks of the strength of his company, with a careless mention of his own favourite line-his benefit fixed for an early day, but would do hiinself the honour to leave further particulars at a future opportunity-speaks of the stage as an elegant amusement, that most agreeably enlivens a spare evening or two in the week, and, under proper management (to which he himself paid the most assiduous attention), might be made of the greatest assistance to the cause of virtue and humanity—had seen Mr. Garrick act the last night but one before his retiring from the stage—had himself had offers from the London boards, and, indeed, could not say he had given up all thoughts of one day surprising them-as it was, had no reason to repine-Mrs. F--- tolerably advanced in lifehis eldest son a prodigious turn for the higher walks of tragedy-had said perhaps too much of himself-had given universal satisfaction—hoped that the young gentleman and lady, at least, would attend on the following evening, when The West Indian would be performed at the market-hall, with the farce of No Song No Supper-and so having played his part, withdraws in the full persuasion of having made a favourable im

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